By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
Three months later, he was dead.
On October 2, a Monday, Danny, his brother Paul, Pat McCarville and another boy named Jeff Christiano met at a neighborhood park to drink beer. Hospital blood tests later showed that Pat and Paul were legally drunk; Danny had apparently not consumed any alcohol.
Then they went to Paradise Valley Mall.
Pat and Danny were in the men's room when the bump happened.
Witnesses later reported seeing the three youths, Mike Shoemaker, 17, Tommy Lopez, 18, and Greg Acevedo, 16, cruising through the mall trying hard to make eye contact, a fight waiting to happen.
And when they passed through the food court, Lopez and Christiano bumped shoulders.
One nearby witness told New Times that the contact looked accidental and that the basketball players probably would have kept walking.
But then Lopez, by some witness accounts, called out, "What's up, punk?"
Paul Richardson took up the challenge. "What are you looking at?" he asked, the same old lines that adolescents have used for fighting words for generations, which led to the next cliche, "Do you want to take this outside?" That was as far as the conversation went, and within 90seconds of the bump, they had decided to fight. None of the boys knew each other; Tommy Lopez had already graduated from high school and had a job at a supermarket; Mike Shoemaker and Greg Acevedo were students at Moon Valley High School.
None of the parents of these boys can fathom why they faced off to fight. None of the boys had any fighting experience. None had been in trouble before.
Maybe the beer was talking for the athletes; maybe they were pushed by the fear of being threatened after Ryan Winn's shooting.
The other boys have no excuses. They have claimed they fought in self-defense. Witnesses have said they were the more aggressive of the two groups in the early moments of the altercation. If they were so terrified as to kill, why didn't they back down? Why didn't they run?
Instead, both sides were caught up in a base animal instinct--male territoriality.
Lori Norfolk, who is the common-law stepmother of Greg Acevedo, says, "These kids didn't even know each other. Maybe because of this other situation [the death threats], that's why these boys felt threatened or felt like they needed to fight. I really don't know. I don't know why kids would want to fight somebody they don't even know. There's no reason for it."
Except that boys fight and always have.
Nor can Norfolk understand why her stepson and Mike Shoemaker were carrying knives.
"Are they thinking, 'If I show them I have a knife, they won't fight'? What if they still do? Somebody's going to get hurt."
And somebody did.
At first, Greg and Mike and Tommy had a three-on-two fight in their favor. But Jeff and Paul signaled to Pat and Danny, who were just coming out of the men's room.
Paul is five-eleven; Greg and Tommy are five-six and five-seven. Suddenly, here were two more boys, Pat, who is six-seven, and Danny, who was six-three. Suddenly, the odds had turned.
And then two witnesses who overheard the argument stood up to follow the boys outside and watch the fight. At that point, Mike and Greg and Tommy could have kept walking--could have run--but they didn't. Instead, they walked out the mall doors and waited.
A police spokesman later told the media that "the basketball players brought fists to a knife fight." The accused boys later pleaded in court that they only fought in self-defense. But an eyewitness, who asked not to be identified, told New Times that neither was true.
"It was mutual combat," he said, "and what happened was not self-defense by any means. The police said they brought fists to a knife fight; no, they brought knives to a fistfight."
Jeff Christiano never made it outside. Pat McCarville pushed through the doors and headed straight for Mike Shoemaker, who is more than a foot shorter than he, and he pushed him. When McCarville threw his next punch, he missed and tangled his arms around Mike's neck. The smaller boy, witnesses said, seemed to wrap his arms around Pat's waist.
Suddenly, Pat couldn't lift his arms.
"I felt like I couldn't do anything," he remembers. "I wanted to hit him, but I couldn't."
He didn't feel any pain, but he saw the knife in Mike's hand, a folding knife with a hunting blade and green-brown handle. He lifted up his shirt and blood spurted out to the pavement.
He heard Danny cry out that he'd been stabbed. Danny had picked his fight with Greg Acevedo, and Greg stabbed him in the chest with a double-bladed black dagger. Paul had been fighting with Tommy Lopez, but when he turned to help Danny, Lopez caught Paul in a headlock and Greg drove the knife into his back.
Danny fell into a planter outside the mall; Paul saw Danny's eyes roll back in his head, and then Paul collapsed on top of his brother.
Pat wandered, dazed, until a passerby suggested he lie down. His beeper started vibrating on his belt--his girlfriend trying to page him--but he couldn't reach it, and the stranger who was trying to help him kept asking what he could do for him.